In a single gene, a path to fight heart attacks
The availability of a new drug that would significantly reduce the chances of heart attacks, by lowering triglyceride level in the body, is a possibility. Two major researches have independently identified mutations in a single gene named APOC3 that protect against heart attacks by keeping levels of triglycerides — a type of fat in the blood — very low.
These discoveries are expected give a fillip to the development of drugs that imitate the effect of these mutations, offering the first new class of drugs to counter heart disease.
Drugs like Statins, which bring down LDL cholesterol, another cause of heart disease, became an instant hit in the late 1980s. Since then there have been no major new drugs approved for reducing heart disease risk.
As per a new research conducted on Amish people, it was found that one in 20 Amish people has a mutation that deletes a gene, APOC3, involved in triglyceride metabolism, as compared with one in 150 Americans generally. Another bigger study mapped the genes of 3,734 Americans, about 2,500 of whom were white and the remaining African-American. Here also, the researchers discovered four mutations that destroyed the function of APOC3 gene. The Amish study had discovered that people with such a mutation could consume food loaded with fat without any significant change in their triglyceride levels. As per scientists, those who have these gene mutations have a 40% decrease in triglyceride levels and a 40% lower risk of heart disease. These findings are expected to help in creating new types of drugs. But the drug development may take years and it is still uncertain whether the new drugs will work as hoped.